Don’t Look At The Keyboard!

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I’m almost 52 and never learned to touch type.

Back in the Stone Age when I was in high school, typing classes were offered.  (The student ratio was approximately 10 females for every 1 male, which in retrospect was a pretty canny move on the part of that one guy.)  And they used actual manual typewriters.  Somewhere toward the end of my time in that educational gulag, electric typewriters were made available, but only for the advanced classes.

At any rate, I never took typing.

I took Home Ec.

Sheesh, what a bone-headed choice that proved to be.  I wish they’d let girls take Wood Shop, that would’ve been a life skill worth having.  But it was unheard of in 1979.

So I’ve signed up for an online typing course called “TypingQuest.”  According to the pre-test, I can actually type 40 words per minute with 98% accuracy, as long as I’m allowed to do it my way.  As soon as I go into the “home position” and don’t look at the keyboard, my speed drops to 8 snail-paced words per minute and my accuracy goes down to 85%.

It’s like teaching a hamster to do calculus.

Obviously, I need lessons and practice.  Lots and lots of both.  I’m working my way through the structured lessons and then playing the typing “games” for reinforcement.  It’s proving incredibly frustrating to retrain myself to not look at my hands while typing.  I catch myself doing it, wrench my eyes away, and slow way down.

Plus I tend to move my whole hand around, not just the appropriate finger (no, not that one) which leads to even more mistakes.

I need a workout routine to build up the muscles in my pinkie fingers.  I don’t use them for anything, except to crook them above the keyboard in a bizarre homage to British tea-drinking.  They’re weak and tend to roll all over the place when in “home position.”

My goal is to touch type at least 60 words a minute accurately and sign up with a temp agency, which would then open long-term employment doors.

I think.

Once I master touch typing (assuming I don’t die trying), maybe I’ll upgrade my flip phone and learn how to text.  Texting’s still a thing, isn’t it?

Everything’s Coming Up Tomatoes

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Last year I grew tomatoes for the very first time and ya’ll held my virtual hand through the process, offering solutions for the bug and leaf problems I experienced.

One of the lessons I learned last year was to start the seeds early in order to get tomatoes before August.  Well, I couldn’t find my heirloom seed packets; they seem to have been a casualty in our move.  The local nursery (and Alex-the-friendly-hippie) have disappeared.  I dawdled around and finally ordered some organic cherry tomato and basil seeds online.

While waiting for those to show up, I saw organic heirloom tomato plants for sale at Home Depot during one of my weekly treks.  WTH, I thought and bought one as well as a sturdy tomato cage.  I immediately transplanted it into a large patio pot and fixed up the supports.  This was back in late January and I wasn’t sure how well the plant would do.  Not to rub anyone’s nose in the snow, but our winter in San Diego was extremely mild.  And that little tomato plant has quadrupled in size.

It’s more than four feet tall, has multiple flowers and dozens of small tomatoes.  I’m so excited!

The cherry tomato and basil seeds finally arrived and I got them sowed late last month.  The little seedlings have popped up, so I have high hopes for delicious homegrown tomatoes from May through November.

The rest of my patio garden is filled out with mint, thyme, sage, and a large rosemary bush.  I brought the container cayenne pepper plant from our old house and it’s survived so far.  For decoration, I’ve got a small ficus tree and a large geranium.  My little patio is proving to be perfect for the plants I really like and use.

What are your garden plans?  Have you gotten started yet or is the weather making you wait?

 

But I Thought We Already Did That

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Two weeks ago, my associate attorney called and emailed me about the draft Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA).  All of a sudden, Mr. Mens Rights Attorney was “hounding” her for the draft.  I found the tone of her communications strange as I’m not holding up the MSA.

She emailed the first draft in February and I had communicated my problems with some of the verbiage (and facts!  It was like she attended a different settlement meeting than I did) within 24 hours of receipt.  I ended up having to make an appointment and go in to her office.  All of this cost hundreds of dollars, and pissed me off.

A month passed and she sent the second draft along with the poke about opposing counsel hounding her.  I printed it out and compared it word for word, all 45 pages, while also checking my notes from our meeting the previous month.  It was tedious, but I got it done and back to her within 12 hours.

She called, again, to confirm receipt and stated there were a few formatting tweaks to be made.  She anticipated sending it to Mr. Mens Rights Attorney in a day or two.

That was two weeks ago.

This morning I got a cc of an email she’d just sent to opposing counsel with the draft MSA attached.  Here I’d thought he had it and expected some response for two weeks, while in fact it still hadn’t been sent.

Okay.  Fine.  So now the clock starts?  Now the refinements and negotiations begin?

The hell with it.  I’ve done my part.  I’ll deal with what comes next when it comes.  It seems like divorce means paying people a whole bunch of money so I can do their work and never really know what’s going on.

School District Follies

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My two older kids went to public school for the first few years of their education, but ultimately both were homeschooled.  Kid #3 has been homeschooled her whole life.  I’m going to make that whole long story short and just say that the decision had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with these individual kids.  I’ve always homeschooled through a charter school, so kids #1 and #2 have high school diplomas from an accredited institution.

Now that the family landscape has changed and I need to get a job, kid #3 will be attending a public high school in the Fall.  She’s nervous and excited.  I’m dreading the anvil of reality on her head — the 7:10 AM start time.

Our home is located between two high schools.  Our assigned school is a sprawling new facility that emphasizes extracurricular activities (read:  jocks rule).  The other school is older and the top-ranked for academics in the district.  It’s also a much shorter walk, which is fairly critical if your Mom works and you’ve got to be there at seven-frickin’-o’clock in the morning.

The solution, I was informed, was to go to the district office and fill out a transfer request form.  Easy-peasy.

The night before I planned to go to the district office, the lead story on the news was that the teachers in our high school district were picketing that office and threatening a strike.

I went to the office the next morning anyway, because what choice do I have?  Kid’s gotta go to school and I’ve gotta get a transfer request done.

I drove past.  No picket line. Whew.

No picket line, but two big news vans.

Does high school need even more drama?  I parked, walked fast, kept my head down and made it inside the office without being media molested, only to be directed back out past the news reporters to another building.  At this point, I lost all pretense of decorum and just jogged over to the right place and got that s**t done.

The woman behind the counter said it would take about a month to hear back from the district, then did a double take.

“Are you sure you want to transfer from Jock Central High to Smarty Pants High?” she asked.

I assured her I emphatically did.

“Most parents are dying to go the other way.  Jock Central has a waiting list.”  She seemed truly baffled, so I assured her again that I wanted my daughter to attend Smarty Pants High.

Amazingly, I received the transfer approval in the mail the very next day.

Now we have to make an appointment with the Assistant Principal of Smarty Pants High, sign a behavior/attendance/academic success contract (no joke, it’s required) and get kid #3 registered.  All while keeping fingers and toes crossed that a strike is either averted or short.

Homeschooling had a lot less required dancing and hoop-jumping.

Covered CA: Obamacare in Action

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Covered CA is California’s version of Obamacare. And I’ll be honest upfront: I like Obamacare. I was hoping for a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system if Congress insisted on the individual mandate, but I still like Obamacare.

I’d been avoiding dealing with the entire issue of health insurance because I really love the insurance I’ve had for the past 15 years. I’ve been in denial that I’m going to lose that insurance when my divorce is finalized.

But there were ads all over television and radio that the absolute deadline to apply for Obamacare was March 31. My understanding was that if you didn’t apply by that date, you’d be out of luck until November.

Guess whose divorce won’t be finalized until anywhere between May and October?

So do I risk a major medical event in that time or do I play it safe?

Safety first, ‘cuz no way do I want to tempt fate.

I went on the Covered CA website to get serious about finding an insurance plan. Check. Found one that’s not great but is affordable. Then I went through the application process. It took me an hour and three tries because there wasn’t very much explanation for a whole lot of questions.

For example, it asked household size, but the two kids who are members of my household will continue to get awesome health insurance through their father’s employment. So do I include them or not? Finally figured it out and eventually hit the submit button.

Only to be told that I’m so poor I qualify for MediCal and my application for that is pending.

But that’s not what I wanted!

The next screen demanded verification I simply don’t have, like court papers showing support ordered. Dude, I thought I was applying for Obamacare that I’d have to pay for, I didn’t ask for MediCal.

I should’ve found an in-person coverage counselor and done the application that way. I really didn’t think the damn thing would imperiously override the boxes I checked, or that income trumped everything else.

Two days after my application fiasco, I caught a news segment that announced more refinements to the process. Now, thank The Powers That Be, there will be wiggle room for people who experience a “qualifying life event.” And divorce is specifically listed.

Once my divorce decree is signed by a judge, I’ll find a coverage counselor and see if I can get something besides MediCal. But I guess it remains an option if I don’t meet the income guidelines.

I’d pour a glass of wine, but I’m afraid one glass won’t be enough and rehab probably isn’t covered.

Two Years

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It was two years ago today that I woke up to an email from Voldemort saying that he was moving out the next day. There was a confusing reference to telling the kids of his departure and a promise to pay a certain amount of support, based on what a lawyer he had seen had advised was the law.

I replied with an insistence that we talk to the kids together that evening. After dinner, he called all three into the living room (but not me). I went in anyway. He just dropped his bomb on them; when kid #3 asked if this was like a divorce and started crying, he got up and walked away. I hugged her and comforted her.

It was exactly like the rest of our marriage and his parenting.

He spent that night carrying belongings out to his car while kid #3 watched. He left early the next morning, before any of the kids were awake, without saying good-bye.

Two years.

I can still remember the tension and anxiety. I can remember losing a lot of weight because I couldn’t eat. Food had no taste. I couldn’t sleep. He had been behaving erratically and I was worried he would commit suicide.

It took a solid month before I was able to sleep for more than two hours at a time. And closer to three months before I could eat regularly.

The kids actually adjusted fairly quickly. Life after Voldemort moved out wasn’t much different from life with Voldemort at home. Before they had only seen him for 20 minutes a day, at the dinner table. Even then, he didn’t engage with them; they had to try to break his ice. It must have been exhausting.

Kids #2 and #3 haven’t seen him in two years. Kid #1 has seen his father a handful of times. None of them particularly miss him. All three feel abandoned, angry, and rejected.

It didn’t have to be this way.

In some ways, it feels like a lifetime has passed. But today, it feels like the blink of an eye. I can’t believe it’s been two years. And it’s gotten better.

I’m still worried and anxious, but I’m not debilitated by those feelings. I’m still the responsible adult in our relationship, dealing with the bills for our former home and its sale, but I set aside time to focus on that crap and then I leave it alone.

I eat health-supporting foods (and sometimes even treats!) and I taste what I’m eating.

I sleep just fine.

I think this is what “letting go” and “moving on” look like for me. It’s one foot in front of the other, minute by minute at first, then realizing two years have gone by and look how far I’ve walked.

More Hair-raising Drama

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When kid #3 was little and I got to choose her hairstyle, she had the cutest little bob with bangs.  Her hair is straight and fine, so the bob was perfect for her.  Then she got old enough to express a preference, which for several years was heavily influenced by Disney princesses (long, long, long) and Hannah Montana (the good old days when Miley Cyrus had long hair and kept her tongue in her mouth).

But she barely brushed all that hair and rarely managed to get all the shampoo or conditioner rinsed out.  Forget putting it in a ponytail or letting me French-braid it.  All that hair just hung in her face and mocked me.

About a year ago, she decided she wanted to change her hairstyle.  I took her to Mary and she cut about eight inches off.  Kid #3 brought a picture of what she wanted, printed from the internet.

Kid #3’s picture was of an anime character.  A character I refer to colloquially as a cartoon.  This will become important in the next few paragraphs.

She loved the new ‘do.  She even brushed her hair and rinsed sufficiently.  I took her for trims every now and then.  She needed a trim last week, so I took her to my new salon and let her handle her stylist while I got my hair trimmed by my stylist.

Big mistake.

She was in tears on the way home.  Her hair was cut “too short and looked effing horrible,” she said.  I tried consoling her, “It’s a bit shorter, but has the same essential shape.”  No go.

I tried understanding.  I tried logic.  I’ve tried to teach her that all the little crappy things in life are to be dealt with and overcome.  Don’t become a hermit because you’ve got cramps.  Don’t refuse to go outside because you have a bad hair day or those pants seem to make your butt look fat.

My son doesn’t have these appearance issues.  It seems to be a female challenge.  We aspire to a pleasing appearance at the cost of living our lives.  I understand we all want to feel attractive, to be comfortable in our own skin; I also understand that we all get pimples and bloat and frizzy hair.  None of that is a disfigurement.

So kid #3’s response to her too short haircut?  “Can I just get it all cut off?”

Um, no.  And how does that solve the problem?

Also, let’s remember she modeled her hairstyle on a cartoon character.

The current solution is always wearing a hoodie a la the Unabomber.

This, my friends, is why God gave us wine.  And possibly tequila.

Skewing Demographics, Just Because I Am

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I’ve reached an age (almost 52) at which nobody but the AARP cares what I do, watch, read, or buy anymore. As far as the marketers of the world are concerned, I’m a non-entity for the most part.

Which is fine by me.

The freedom from certain labels is heady. Then I realized I haven’t much cared about what I’m supposed to be doing, reading, watching or buying in a very long time. Oh, there was a decade in my late teens to twenties when I cared deeply about being “cool,” which is really about conforming to someone else’s ideals. Once I figured that out, I said screw it and went with my gut.

My gut can be wrong (I’ve got the unflattering photos of hideous clothes and hairstyles to prove it, not to mention the pending divorce from a man my gut approved, for the most part), but I’m generally happy with the experiences.

So back in the day, as a 30-something mom, I watched “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” like it was my job. At that time, I was a cub scout den leader and the adult meetings were held on Tuesday evenings. I was certain to get the hell outta those before 8 PM when Buffy started. Sure, the dads involved made fun of me, so what?

I’m currently a little hooked on the Netflix series “Hemlock Grove” which is a cross between “Twilight” (any iteration) and “Twin Peaks.” The main characters are mostly high schoolers (who smoke, drink, and have more sex than just about every adult I’ve ever known). It is most assuredly not meant for a woman of a certain age.

So?

I’ve recently discovered Tumblr. (And it hurts me a little to type it without the “e.” Urgh.) I’m not entirely sure what the point of Tumblr is, and kid #3 was horrified to find out that I not only know of its existence, but also check it daily.

Yeah, so?

I’m just as likely to read a “Young Adult” novel as “Women’s Fiction.” Actually, I’m more likely to read a YA book; a lot of Women’s Fiction is depressing and a tad boring.

I haven’t done any research, but I think the strict adherence to marketing strategies that target people by age and gender may be part of why broadcast television is declining so much in the U.S. The Netflix/Amazon models of making everything available and letting people pick and choose is not only more convenient, but also more egalitarian. Not all chicks love rom-coms, not all guys just want to see explosions. And I have no idea who watches those “Baby Story” shows, except maybe first time pregnant women who don’t know any better and haven’t sat through a Lamaze class yet.

Am I a weirdo? Do you keep to your own lane demographically? Do you notice this or are you too busy bopping along in your own parade to pay it any mind?

Remembering Tommy

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When we first moved to our giant house in the suburbs, it was spring break.  Kids #1 and 2 were in public school (second grade and kindergarten).  We’d barely gotten all the furniture and boxes moved into the new place when school resumed.

For those who don’t know, kindergarten is practically a career for whichever parent is most responsible for supervising the offspring.  At that time, kindergarten was an approximately half day venture, with either a different start time or end time than the rest of the grades, or both a different start and end time.  This could result in a lot of back and forth to drop off and pick up multiple children.

And kid #3 was about 10 months old, so I finessed naptimes more often than not.

One of the first moms I met at kindergarten pick-up was Teresa.  She had a toddler daughter, Hannah, and a kindergarten son, Tommy, in #2’s class.  Teresa and I spent a fair amount of time together hanging around outside the kindergarten classroom, coaxing our daughters to just hang in there a few more minutes, quietly please, until their siblings were set free for the day.  Later, Tommy and #2 were in the same first and second grade classes; Teresa and I, Hannah and #3 ended up spending a whole lot of time together chillin’ on the playground.

Tommy and #2 became friends, too.  Teresa and her family bought a house just a few doors down our street and all the kids would play together.  They ran between the houses, playing with whichever kids were available.

Tommy was a tow-headed, solidly-built little boy with a disconcertingly deep voice.  He was open and curious, always kind, often blunt.  He was a kid I never minded having underfoot, easy-going and just mischievous enough to be interesting.

After #2 left public school in the third grade, Tommy was still a playmate, but the older the kids got, the less we saw of him.  Yet every Halloween without fail, he’d trick or treat at our house and ask after #2.  He was truly interested in what she was doing and how she was.

Last St Patrick’s Day in the mid-afternoon, there was a terrible cacophony of sirens racing down the hill to our suburb’s community pool.  I spared a quick hope that all would be well and forgot about it.  Until two days later when I saw the obituary in the newspaper.

Tommy had been at the pool with his girlfriend, both seniors in high school, enjoying the warm spring day.  He’d climbed out of the pool and simply collapsed, not breathing.  The paramedics were unable to revive him.  He died in the sunshine, by the side of the pool.

He’d played football and lacrosse in high school, had received a partial athletic scholarship to college.  Had the physical for that college just weeks before his collapse.  A week before his death, his parents’ divorce had become final.  I never heard the results of the mandatory autopsy, not that it would change the unexpected tragedy of his passing.

I think of his mother often and wish her love and happy memories of her son.  I’m acutely aware of just how close I came to losing a child.  I don’t know how she carries on.  I can barely breathe just remembering.

For me, in my mind’s eye, Tommy remains the tow-headed little boy with the very deep voice and the sparkle in his eyes.   Forever seven years old, running up the sidewalk, laughing.

 

Lessons From An Unsold House

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The house interior has been completely repainted.  It took a couple days longer than anticipated, but the results were well worth the extra time.  It looks wonderful and fresh.  No personality, but nothing to bitch about either.

My dad replaced all the bathroom faucets because we still had the 13 year old, builder-grade ones installed and they looked horrible.  I bought some inexpensive brushed nickel fixtures and my poor father spent days swapping them in.  The builder installed the faucets ass-backwards which turned a relatively simple job into a huge time suck.  And far more frustrating than imaginable.  The new faucets are pristine and again, nothing to bitch about.

I had the old refrigerator hauled away.  The finish was getting pitted with rust and sometime after we moved out, it had begun to flake and peel.  It looked like appliance eczema.  Gross.  Now there’s an empty but freshly painted spot for someone else’s fridge to live.

The downstairs carpet had been deep cleaned a week or two after we moved, but not the upstairs or stairwell carpet.  My thought had been that anyone in their right mind would replace 13 year-old carpet that had been home to three young children and various cats.  But the carpet got bitched about a lot by realtors, so I had it all cleaned.  I’m pretty sure Harry Potter owns the local Stanley Steemer franchise, because they worked some serious magic.  All sorts of disgusting, ground-in stains disappeared.  Poof!

Since they were at the house anyway, I also had Stanley Steemer clean the tile and grout.  All of which now looks brand new.  No lie.  When it was finished, my dad remarked, “I’d forgotten the grout was white.”

Yeah, it was…not pristine.  Now?  Again, nothing to bitch about.

Finally, we made a few minor repairs.  We took down a broken “vanishing” screen door, which had been so good at vanishing that my kids would run right into and through it.  We patched and painted the door frame.

I scrubbed and repainted the pantry shelves.  Those damn shelves had been an eyesore for years, but I could never summon the energy to empty the pantry out and repaint while we lived there.

And that’s the big lesson I learned from all this.  When I walked around the house and looked at what we’d accomplished with 10 days and $2,500, I kicked myself for not doing some of it while we lived there.

The faucets could’ve been replaced and enjoyed instead of dealing with the pitted crap we had.

The tile and grout could’ve been professionally cleaned making the entry and kitchen more inviting.

The screen should’ve been removed many years ago.  Leaving it was pure laziness.

The pantry shelves took me less than three hours to clean and repaint.  Granted, the kitchen would’ve been a mess with food all over the counters for a day or so, but it’s a small price to pay.

I spent a lot of time cleaning and maintaining certain things in that house, but I spent even more time griping and ignoring what turned out to be easily remedied issues.  Go ahead and deal with those things that drive you nuts.  Don’t wait until you’re desperate.

I have a feeling this lesson applies to more than getting a house sold.

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